Skip to main content

What's Up Magazine

Symphony of Lights Fun for All

Nov 28, 2011 10:34PM ● By Anonymous
That evening, just cruise over to Columbia Town Center. Drive to the Broken Land Parkway entrance to Symphony Woods (just off Little Patuxent Parkway). Then spot the attendants, heed their directions, and enjoy.

You’ll be at the Howard Hospital Foundation’s 18th Annual Symphony of Lights.

After taking in the annual spectacle of more than 70 animated and stationary holiday light displays, head west on Little Patuxent for about two miles, take the north ramp onto Route 29, and look for the first ramp at the Montgomery Road exit—or drive the extra couple of miles to the Route 40 East ramp and look to your right for the Ellicott City Historic District signs.

If you take the Montgomery Road route, go up the ramp, make a quick left at the first light onto Old Columbia Pike and follow it a couple of miles to the heart of Historic Ellicott City.

Either way, you’ll be at Midnight Madness.

Shining Brightly

The Symphony of Lights returns with the usual mix of events during its six-week run, which began the weekend before Thanksgiving and ends January 1st.

Private group walk-throughs will be offered on Mondays and Wednesdays, through December 21st; and this year’s event marks the third year for two newer highlights of the symphony: Blinkin’ Binkies, a leisurely strollthrough for the little ones, on Thursday, December 8th; and Tail Lights, when dog owners can bring their canine accompaniment for a walk through the grounds, on Tuesday, December 13th.

This “symphony,” of sorts, will also include the newest touch, introduced last year. It’s set for December 31st and called Midnight at 7, featuring a fireworks display.

“We have about 100,000 people attend the Symphony of Lights every year,” says Victoria Khomutetsky, special events coordinator for the foundation.

“Many people who haven’t been to see the display for some time think it’s just a drivethrough,” she says, “but the Symphony of Lights has grown and can be enjoyed in a variety of ways.”

Happier Hours

Midnight Madness has been a happening in Historic Ellicott City for more than a decade, pointed out Kimberly Kepnes of the Ellicott City Business Association (ECBA), who partners in two Main Street businesses.

The event, which is always held the first Friday in December, rain or shine, starts at 5 p.m. and features a variety of musical performers. They range from single acoustic players to groups with small public address systems, plus single carolers, chorale groups (including those from high schools and scouting troupes), and bell ringers who roam “from one vista to the next,” says Kepnes.

Midnight Madness has turned into “an event where we actually have two different crowds,” she says, “because the evening crowd tends to come after the family crowd,” with the night people tending to frequent the Historic District’s eight restaurants, as well as its three dozen stores and vendors.

Noting that the ECBA offers valet parking to complement the additional spaces at the Howard County Court House, Kepnes says that, while Midnight Madness is “a defining event for historic Ellicott City,” its vibe, like that of the Symphony of Lights, “is felt throughout the region. We get lots of visitors from the Northern Virginia and the D.C./Maryland suburbs, as well as the surrounding counties here in Maryland.”

Just how popular has it become? “We estimate that we attract more than 5,000 visitors to our two-street historic district,” she says. “It’s a great reminder for people to shop locally and support the local business community.” As opposed to the similar event that’s held during yuletide in Annapolis every year that spans two weeks, Midnight Madness in Ellicott City is always just one night. “We feel that keeps with tradition,” she said, “and makes the event more special that way.”

Symphony of Lights

Where: Symphony Woods, Columbia

: Through January 1st. Open seven days a week, from 6–10 p.m., including holidays. Closed December 31st for the Midnight at 7 event.

For more information, including admission and group tour rates, visit the Howard County General Hospital’s site at

Midnight Madness

Where: Throughout Historic Ellicott City

When: December 2nd

For more information visit the Howard County Tourism site at